From the AD: A Letter to The Biological Sciences Community

Image of the world with "NSF" lettering in white.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), and NSF more broadly, understands the impact that COVID-19 and the responses thereto are having on the research community. We have heard from numerous community members and societies about lab closures, stresses associated with transitions to virtual classrooms and determining new methods of supporting students, and the loss of administration time and resources to COVID-related campus-wide planning. We know that these are affecting, and will continue to affect, the research enterprise by straining resources, ending or delaying planned research and/or impeding training and education, and we are committed to being responsive to the community in these difficult times. With this post, I would like to share with you information about NSF’s current operations and provide guidance to current awardees. But, most importantly, I want to emphasize that personal safety is the highest priority and I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy in this difficult time.

NSF current operations:
BIO program staff are on duty and available to the community, albeit virtually, and we welcome your proposal submissions at any point in the coming weeks and months. We are continuing to review proposals and make awards in a timely fashion and have implemented fully virtual panels to complete this process. Based on feedback from BIO panelists during my own video conversations with them, the high quality of the NSF merit review process is being sustained. Moreover, because NSF is uniquely prepared to respond quickly to address scientific unknowns concerning this coronavirus, Agency staff are working hard to review the literally hundreds of requests for RAPID funding being submitted each week.

As a reminder, the core programs throughout BIO do not have submission deadlines and we have extended the few special programs that do have deadlines. An agency-wide list of solicitations and Dear Colleague Letters for which deadlines have been extended can be found here.

Current awardees:
On March 23, NSF released guidance for all awardees on how to mitigate the impacts these challenging times are having and will have. NSF Director France Córdova also released an accompanying letter to the research community noting that “we are committed to providing the greatest available flexibilities to support your health and safety as well as your work.”

For current awards, grantees and program officers also have flexibility to provide no-cost extensions. NSF gives all awardee organizations the authority to extend an award for one year of no-cost extension (NCE) without needing to seek NSF approval. That first-year extension is called a Grantee-Approved extension and should be utilized prior to requesting an NSF-Approved extension. Your organization’s grants office simply needs to inform NSF, two weeks prior to the end of the award, that they intend to use a Grantee-Approved NCE by sending a notification to NSF via Research.gov. If additional time beyond the first year of extension is required, a formal request for an NSF-Approved NCE can be submitted by the organization’s grants officer via Research.gov prior to the end date of the grant. BIO program officers will accommodate such requests for a second year of NCE associated with delays due to COVID-19.

Finally, I and all the Directorate staff are interested in hearing how, in addition to those ways outlined above, BIO and NSF can mitigate the longer-term harm of COVID-19 on U.S. research and training. We will be holding a series of four BIO-wide virtual office hours next week where you can share concerns, ask questions, or offer your suggestions on how we can do more to address this national emergency. Sessions will be held at 4 pm Monday, March 30; 3 pm Tuesday, March 31; 2 pm Wednesday, April 1; and 1 pm Thursday, April 2; all times are EDT. Please feel free to attend the session that best fits your schedule; representatives from across BIO will be in attendance during each session.

For more information on NSF’s activities and response to COVID-19, please visit our coronavirus information page; this site is updated regularly.

Sincerely,

Image of the signature of Dr. Joanne Tornow, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences
Joanne S. Tornow, Ph.D.
Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

 

Basic Research Goes to Washington

February 15, 2017

This week, NSF-funded research was on display on Capitol Hill for “The Arc of Science: Research to Results” event. Scientists whose work provides insights, products, or services to American citizens, businesses, and government interacted with congresspeople, congressional staffers, and representatives from various sectors of the economy, including health care, education, and industry. Guests enjoyed hands-on demonstrations of technologies directly stemming from NSF-funded research.

Attendees learned about BIO-funded research at the exhibit, “QSTORM: Achieving Pinpoint Surveillance Capacity Inside Living Cells.” The Principal Investigator, Dr. Jessica Winter (Ohio State University) and colleagues from the Museum of Science Boston showed how NSF is supporting teams of scientists and engineers to come together to tackle one of the last frontiers of microscopy – obtaining detailed images of the inner workings of living cells. The researchers explained to attendees how new breakthroughs in nanotechnology, chemical engineering, optics, and computer programming are allowing them to address this challenge.

Visitors to the exhibit had the opportunity to “turn on” a real set of amazingly bright and colorful quantum dots–the researchers use these to illuminate the tiniest features inside cells. Then, using a styrofoam and slinky model, the team demonstrated how they “turn off” a quantum dot using a gold nanoparticle tethered by a strand of DNA. Attendees learned how STORM super-resolution microscopy can reconstruct detailed images from overlays of pinpoint dots of light.

Dr. Olds peers into a small box sitting on a table by lifting up a small flap on the box. Researchers look on.
NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences, Dr. Jim Olds, used models of QSTORM quantum dots to discover how they enable scientists to look inside living cells. (Photo credit: NSF)

The QSTORM project, originally funded in 2010, has since received a second grant from NSF to work on implementing new imaging techniques made possible by the original science and to help establish partnerships which otherwise may not have come to be. Dr. Winter is working with the Museum of Science Boston to develop several hands-on demonstrations to explain the science of quantum dots to a broader audience.

The Arc of Science event was coordinated by the National Science Foundation and the Coalition for National Science Funding. Invited speakers included NSF Director Dr. France A. Córdova, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).

To see additional highlights from the event, look for Tweets from @NSF with the hashtag #ArcOfScience.

New Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) for 2017

Last updated January 4, 2016

The National Science Foundation has made some changes to the guidance documents for proposal and award policies and procedures. Instead of the current two-guide structure of a Grant Proposal Guide (GPG) and an Award and Administration Guide (AAG), there will be one guide—the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG; NSF 17-1)—comprising two parts: 

  • Part I: Proposal Preparation and Submission Guidelines
  • Part II: Award, Administration and Monitoring of Grants and Cooperative Agreements

For proposals submitted or due, or awards made, on or after January 30, 2017, the guidelines in PAPPG 17-1 apply.

The NSF has detailed the significant changes and clarifications to the PAPPG (NSF 17-1) and provided a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Proposal Preparation and Award Administration document.

In the future you will not see references to the GPG in NSF documents and on NSF web pages (the NSF will be updating existing references to the GPG on all web pages over time).

The NSF has also issued a revised version of the Grants.gov Application Guide (.pdf download). It has been updated to align with changes in the new PAPPG (NSF 17-1).

If you have any questions or concerns about the PAPPG (NSF 17-1), FAQs, or the Grants.gov Application Guide, you can contact the NSF Policy Office at policy[at]nsf.gov. For technical questions related to Grants.gov, please email support[at]grants.gov.

~Happy New Year! The Directorate for Biological Sciences looks forward to supporting exciting new discoveries and outstanding continuing basic science research in 2017.~

Get NSF document updates by Email through GovDelivery.

#PollinatorWeek has US Buzzing

June 22, 2016

This afternoon the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released the Pollinator Partnership Action Plan (PPAP). The PPAP accompanies the National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health, released by OSTP in 2015 along with the science-based Pollinator Research Action Plan.

The National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health has three goals:

  1. Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels;
  2. Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and
  3. Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

To compliment today’s PPAP release, the National Science Foundation (NSF) summarized the agency’s pollinator portfolio (i.e., what the NSF funds in this area). The NSF supports many basic research and education programs and projects relevant to the National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health. The majority of awards related to pollinators are made through the Directorate for Biological Sciences, but pollinator research is supported throughout the NSF. The NSF Pollinator Portfolio summary can be found here: http://go.usa.gov/xq5QB.

A bumblebee foraging on the petals of a larkspur flower.
A larkspur flower with a guest—a bumblebee foraging on its petals. (Credit: Karen Levy, Emory University)

To celebrate #PollinatorWeek, the NSF has also published an article on Medium highlighting NSF-funded research news and discoveries related to pollinator health.

Learn more about the National Strategy to Promote Pollinator Health, the PPAP, and how you can nurture and celebrate pollinators on the OSTP blog.

Meeting NSF’s Technical Reporting Requirements

PIs must use Research.gov to meet all NSF technical reporting requirements, including submission of annual, final, and project outcomes reports.

  1. What is Required?

NSF requires that all Principal Investigators (PIs) submit annual reports during the course of an award and a final report no later than 120 days following expiration of an award. Each report is reviewed by the award’s managing Program Officer; the reporting requirement is met only after the Program Officer has reviewed and approved the report.

NSF also requires…

Read more…

Revised Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (Effective 2016)

A revised Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (NSF 16-1) will be effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016.

The PAPPG includes the Grant Proposal Guide and Award and Administration Guide.

Significant revisions include:

  • enforcement of 5 p.m. submitter’s local time across all NSF funding opportunities;
  • implementation of NSF’s Public Access Policy;
  • submission of proposal certifications by the Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) concurrently with proposal submission;
  • NSF’s implementation of the U.S. Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences on Dual Use Research of Concern;
  • provision of Collaborators and Other Affiliations information as a  new single-copy document, instead of as a part of the Biographical Sketch;
  • submission of Biographical Sketches and Current and Pending Support separately for each senior personnel;
  • electronic signature and submission of notifications and requests by the AOR only;
  • revision of time-frame for submission of final project reports, project outcomes reports and financial closure of awards to 120 days after the award end date; and
  • numerous clarifications throughout the document.

Webinar information

For more information, contact policy[at]nsf[dot]gov.

Biological Sciences Guidance on Data Management Plans

On October 1st, 2015, BIO made available an updated version of “Biological Sciences Guidance on Data Management Plans.”

A Data Management Plan (DMP) must be included with a full proposal and should describe how a project will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results (see NSF 15-1 and NSF 16-1). The DMP is evaluated as part of the Merit Review process, either under the Intellectual Merit or the Broader Impacts criterion, or both, as appropriate for the scientific community of relevance. BIO anticipates differences in data management practices across the many research communities we support and recognizes that not all data are appropriate for post-project dissemination or preservation.

Generally, the DMP addresses two different aspects of the research process:

  • data handling during the project (which concerns robust and reliable research), and
  • preparation of data (software/materials/etc.) for dissemination or deposit for future access.

In brief, a DMP should include:

  • the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  • standards to be used to contain and describe those data and materials, including (data) format and metadata standard;
  • policies that pertain to sharing and access, including where appropriate, consideration of
    • appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements; and
    • allowances or restrictions on re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives;
  • plans for depositing or archiving data, samples, and other research products to preserve access to them.

In response to consultations with the scientific community and BIO’s Program Officers about data management, this updated BIO Guidance on DMPs is intended to clarify several required components identified in NSF policy. Please note that program-level data management requirements may be more specific or extensive than the BIO Guidance on DMPs, and you are advised to contact a BIO Program Officer if you have any questions related to a DMP in the program context.

Future blog posts will address BIOData as well as changes in the newly released version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG; NSF 16-1); the new PAPPG is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after January 25, 2016.

BIO AD Testifies Before the House Committee on Appropriations regarding Federal Investments in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

On March 26, 2015, Dr. James Olds testified before the Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, United States House of Representatives, on Federal Investments in Neuroscience and Neurotechnology.

Testimony Overview

The human brain is arguably the most complicated biological entity we are aware of in the universe. With roughly 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synaptic connections linking them together, the brain is responsible not only for controlling basic physiology, such as breathing, but also for higher-level functions such as learning, memory, emotions and cognition.

NSF’s goal is to enable scientific understanding of the full complexity of the brain in action and in context. In order to meet this goal, fundamental research is needed to explore and discover the general principles underlying how cognition and behavior relate to the brain’s structural organization and dynamic activities, how the brain interacts with its environment, and how the brain can recover from lost functionality.

To address these issues, NSF is supporting interdisciplinary teams to develop the needed tools and to integrate their respective scientific disciplines at a rate they have not done in the past. NSF is strategically targeting its resource investments to advance the basic research needed to understand how healthy brains work and how they achieve cognition. An improved understanding of the healthy human brain is essential for dealing with the increasing frequency of neurological disorders that affect the human population.

Read more…

The Science and Ethics of Genetically Engineered Human DNA (House Subcommittee Hearing)

On Jun 16, 2015, at 2:00pm the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology will hold a hearing on The Science and Ethics of Genetically Engineered Human DNA

Opening Statements
Subcommittee on Research and Technology Chairwoman Barbara Comstock

Witnesses
Dr. Victor J. Dzau, President, Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Jennifer Doudna, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Elizabeth McNally, Professor of Genetic Medicine, Professor in Medicine-Cardiology and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics; Director, Center for Genetic Medicine, Northwestern University
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Professor of Bioethics and Public Policy; Deputy Director for Policy and Administration, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University

Webcast: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-technology-hearing-science-and-ethics-genetically-engineered-human